Tagbilaran to Sagay, Camiguan Island
20 May 2011 | Sagay, C amiguin Island
Last Thursday we went into the city to look for distilled water for the batteries (one thing Dave forgot to get when in Cebu) and once we had managed to find them we then went looking for an electronics shop to get the diode checked out on the autohelm computer. Found a place right opposite where we had decided to have lunch but the diode was found to be okay so we have decided to order one from the US and have it sent to Palau. Next morning we went ashore reasonably early and ended up leaving our dinghy outside the marine police building as the day before children had been playing in it while we were away. We then went found a guy in a tricycle to take us to the bus station to supposedly catch a bus up to see the Chocolat Hills in the middle of the island (Bohol) which are well known. However he offered to take us himself for 1500 pesos and also stopped at various other sights and things to see en route so we thought that was a good idea. First stop was some bronze statues which we presume was to do with the Spanish settlers (our guide was not talkative so we did not get a lot of information. The next stop was to visit the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon which is considered to be one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. It is one of the best preserved Jesuit build churches in the region, although in the 19th century, the Augustinian Recollects added a modern facade and a number of stone buildings that now surround the church. The first Spanish missionaries or doctrineros in the region, Fr. Juan de Torres and Fr. Gabriel Sanchez, first settled in Baclayon in 1595. Shortly after their arrival, a visita was erected on the spot. Although Baclayon was the first seat of the Spanish Jesuit missionaries, fear of Moro marauders soon forced them to move their headquarters more inland, to Loboc. Only in 1717, Baclayon became a parish, and construction of a new church commenced. Some 200 native forced laborers constructed the church from coral stones, which they took from the sea, cut into square blocks, and piled on to each other. They used bamboo to move and lift the stones in position, and used the white of a million eggs as to cement them together. The current building was completed in 1727. The church obtained a large bell in 1835. In the Baclayon church is a dungeon, which was used to punish natives who violated the rules of the Roman Catholic church. Next to the church is the old convent, which we went through and houses a small museum with centuries-old religious relics, artifacts and other antiquities, dating back to the 16th century. Included in the collection are an ivory statue of the crucified Christ looking towards heaven; a statue of the Blessed Virgin, said to be presented by Queen Catherine of Aragon; relics of St. Ignatius of Loyola, old gold embroidered ecclesiastical vestments, books with carabao skin covers, and librettos of church music written in Latin on sheep skins. From there we went off on to a side road and went to see the largest python in captivity which is 20ft long - I have photos of it and I took them in the cage with him so they will be put on the blog. There were also some different looking birds and a monkey there as well. From then on the trip was through a forest area which was climbing all the way and very windy so our poor driver's bike was struggling a bit - it was a Honda 125cc. While in the forestry area the heavens opened and we ended up walking across a bamboo made Hanging Bridge across a river in the pouring rain - not something I liked doing very much and was glad when I got back again on to terra firma. The next stop was the Tarsier Visitors Centre. The Philippine tarsier, (Tarsius syrichta) is a very peculiar small animal. In fact it is one of the smallest known primates, no larger than a adult men's hand. Mostly active at night, it lives on a diet of insects. Folk traditions sometimes has it that tarsiers eat charcoal, but actually they retrieve the insects from (sometimes burned) wood. It can be found in the islands of Samar, Leyte, Bohol, and Mindanao in the Philippines. If no action is taken, the tarsier might not survive. Although it is a protected species, and the practice of catching them and then selling them as stuffed tarsiers to tourists has stopped, the species is still threatened by the destruction of his natural forest habitat. Many years of both legal and illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture have greatly reduced these forests, and reduced the tarsier population to a dangerously small size. They certainly are cute little things and they also had the tiniest monkey there which had nappies on! Next stop was the Chocolate Hills which are probably Bohol's most famous tourist attraction. They look like giant mole hills, or as some say, women's breasts, and remind us of the hills in a small child's drawing. The chocolate hills consist of no less than 1268 hills. They are very uniform in shape and mostly between 30 and 50 meters high. They are covered with grass, which, at the end of the dry season, turns chocolate brown. From this color, the hills derive their name. At other times, the hills are green, and the association may be a bit difficult to make. Legend has it that the hills came into existence when two giants threw stones and sand at each other in a fight that lasted for days. When they were finally exhausted, they made friends and left the island, but left behind the mess they made. For the more romantically inclined is the tale of Arogo, a young and very strong giant who fell in love with an ordinary mortal girl called Aloya. After she died, the giant Arogo cried bitterly. His tears then turned into hills, as a lasting proof of his grief. Sounds simolar to the Maori Mythical tales! However, up to this day, even geologists have not reached consensus on how they were formed. The most commonly accept theory is that they are the weathered formations of a kind of marine limestone on top of a impermeable layer of clay. We climbed the 257 steps to the top of the observation hill to get a good view of them. Unfortunately they were not brown when we saw them but they were still and amazing sight. We had lunch at a restaurant up there and finally got back to the boat at about 3pm after a good days outing. As Tagbilaran is a port, one of the marine police guys asked us if we had radioed the Port Authority to advise them of us coming in, my reply was no, didn't think about that, but he made no further comment so as we are still in the Philippines illegally we decided we had better not stay any longer so the next morning we up anchored and were headed to Siquijor Island but ended up going past a beautiful little island called Balicasag so did a detour towards it and we got beckoned in to take a mooring which we did. It was just magnificent and we spent the night there. Had a wonderful snorkel and the coral and the fish life were the best we have seen for years. I spoke to an American couple, Bridget & Kyle who came snorkeling by our boat and we ended up going ashore and having a beer with them on the beach and then dinner at the resort restaurant. They work 6mths in NZ in Queenstown for a rafting company and then 6mths in Switzerland for the same guys rafting company there so they were having a break in the Philippines en route to Switzerland. Bridget came out to the boat next morning to have a look (Kyle was laid low with tummy problems) so all in all an enjoyable little sojourn. We then did another 21 miles to Siquijor Island were we were anchored once again in beautiful clear water so enjoyed a nice swim when we got there. Since leaving Cebu we have had virtually no wind and have motored all the way, although at times we have been able to use the genoa. On Tuesday we had another early start and headed off to Bonbonon at the bottom of Negros Island -a 28 mile trip with a few problems - my washing machine decided to give up the ghost - will no longer spin so think the belt may have gone and some of the ball bearings fell out of the genoa furler. Well we ended up trying to fix the furler all Tuesday afternoon and then again all day Wednesday and we had ball bearings running all over the place. It was just as well it was such a beautiful calm anchorage so we did not lose many over board!! The problem is still only half fixed so hopefully when we get to Surigao we can get a few extra ball bearings, all be it steel if we can't get stainless steel and Dave can make a collar for it. We left Bonbonon yesterday morning at 7.40am and did a 41 mile trip to Majria Bay on Siquijor Island dropping anchor at 4.10pm. Once again anchored in beautiful clear water and enjoyed a lovely swim but felt like we were monkeys in a zoo with half a dozen kids watching us from there outrigger canoes for about an hour. They asked me if they could borrow our boat!! This morning we were up and away at 5.30am as we had a 60 odd mile trip to Camiguin Island. Just after we left the heavens opened for quarter of an hour or so and we had another deluge and hour or so later but we were pleased as we needed the water for our water tanks. Generally it was very slow sailing this morning but at about 12.30pm the breeze picked up and we had some great sailing with the genoa but kept the motor going as we wanted to be anchored before dark so we are now anchored of Sagay at Camiguin Island and we dropped the anchor at 6pm. NZ friends, Jenny & Jim Jobbins on Almathea who have been sailing non stop since Kudat have just joined us here. They will look forward to a good nights sleep. Over the next few days we will be watching the weather closely and timing it right to head off to Palau.